Doctors and hospitals need each other. Healthcare reform is requiring hospitals to rely more heavily on physicians to help them meet quality, safety, and efficiency goals. But in return, doctors are demanding more financial security and a larger role in hospital leadership.
Just how far are they willing to take their mutual relationship to meet their individual needs? A new report by professional services company PwC (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers) examines the mindsets of potential partners, including an online survey of more than 1,000 doctors and in-depth interviews with 28 healthcare executives. The results suggest plenty of opportunities for alignment, though perhaps also the need for serious pre-marriage counseling.
“From Courtship to Marriage Part II” (www.PwC.com/us/PhysicianHospitalAlignment) follows an initial report that emphasizes the element of trust that’s necessary for any doctor-hospital alignment to succeed. This time around, the sequel is focusing on more concrete steps needed to take the budding relationship to the next level and sustain it. In particular, the new report focuses on sharing power (governance), sharing resources (compensation), and sharing outcomes (guidelines).
The PwC report preempts the naysayers by acknowledging at the outset that “hospitals and physicians have been to the altar before, but many of those marriages ended in divorce.” So what’s different from the 1990s, that decade of broken marriages doomed by the irreconcilable differences over capitation?
“Number one is that back in the ’90s, there wasn’t a clear consensus in defining and determining what is quality,” says Warren Skea, a director in the PwC Health Enterprise Growth Practice. In the intervening years, he says, membership societies—SHM among them—and nonprofit organizations, such as the National Quality Forum, have helped address the need to define and measure healthcare quality. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) followed up by adopting and implementing some of those measures in programs, including hospital value-based purchasing (see “Value-Based Purchasing Raises the Stakes,” May 2011, p. 1).
Another missing component in the ’90s, Skea says, was an adequate set of tools for gauging quality. “Even if we did agree what quality was, we couldn’t go back in there and measure it in a valid way,” he explains. “We just didn’t have that capacity.”
A third lesson learned the hard way is that decision-making should involve all physicians, from primary-care doctors to specialists. That power-sharing will be critical, Skea says, as reimbursement models move away from fee-for-service, transaction-based compensation methods and toward paying for outcomes and quality. Silos of care are out, and transitioning patients across a continuum of care is definitely in.
Sound familiar? It should, and the similarity to the hospitalist job description isn’t lost on Skea. “I think hospitalists have served as a very good illustrative example of how physicians can add value to that efficiency equation, improve quality, increase [good] outcomes—all of those things,” he says. In fact, Skea says, the question now is how the quarterback role assumed by hospitalists can be translated or projected to the larger industry and other settings (e.g. outpatient clinics, home care rehabilitation, and continuing care facilities).
Accountable-care organizations (ACOs) are a hot topic in any discussion of better patient transitions and closer doctor-hospital alignments, but they’re hardly the only wedding chapels in town. The new report sketches out the corresponding amenities of a comanagement model and provider-owned plan, and Skea notes that part of the new Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation’s mandate will be to investigate other promising methods for encouraging providers to work together.